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Kolaveri Di Hoax Demystified

An early edited version of this article was published in the blog of The Deccan Herald newspaper on 30 December, 2011.

Is Kolaveri Di better than Roja or Mungaru Male or even Shakalakka Baby? So, why was this unlikely candidate considered a hit with the masses?

For several weeks in October-November, the Kolaveri production team were observed talking up the song on social-networking websites. There was also an unauthorised “leak” of the audio version. Allegedly trying to make the best of a worst situation, the team put together a promo video and released it on YouTube on November 16. So, how did the song become a hit?

On the 20th, The Times of India published a story titled “Kolaveri is the most searched video” ( How is this news? On any given day or any given time, some video or other is the “most searched video.” It could be a music video, or a cat, or a news report. The most searched video honor is not usually newsworthy. The most searched video by itself rarely becomes news. The next day, the The Times followed it up with another story titled “Kolaveri Di goes viral” ( This article literally suggested that if you did not know what “kolaveri” was, then you probably were some creepy crawly thing that has been “living under a rock” for a long time! And, I quote verbatim.

The song became a real hit after the huge boost provided by a mainstream media outfit, blurring the definition of a "viral" video. But, that was only part of the story. The song could not have become a hit without the involvement of THE LITTLE PEOPLE. As with the Mona Lisa painting hoax, the little people were told something lame and awkward was great, and the masses without applying their mind believed it.

Kolaveri Mona Lisa Effect

The Kolaveri phenomenon can be explained with the Mona Lisa Effect. The Mona Lista is known all over the world as a "great" painting. People believe the painting is great only after they are told about its "greatness." Originally, the painting is a dud and it wouldn't have made a mark on anybody's mind. Successful propaganda can make (stupid) people disagree with what their senses are telling their brain.

Sure, the initial set were bamboozled into watching this video. But, what did they do afterwards? Did they behave responsibly? AT A SUBCONSCIOUS LEVEL, THEY ALL FELT CHEATED. As happens often in these cases, they decided to subject others to the same trauma. To this end, they posted links on their social networking sites. (Meanwhile, other news organizations started posting newer stories with updated view count numbers.) Now, there are lots of people… I mean lots and lots and lots of people who want to be on the cutting edge of trends. They do not want to be left behind by any online craze. They absolutely need to show they were first on the take. Here is a report from the computer magazine Digit*:

We were hooked onto this song towards the end of closing. When we first watched it, its view count read 3,000 and now it is over 6.5 million. It was widely covered by every leading daily…

Digit falls for Kolaveri

The Internet is almost up to the brim with people like this. They were the ones who drove view count higher and higher. Given the viral nature of the Internet, the herd mentality of majority of its users and the huge boost given by the leading English daily in India, it was no wonder the video eventually became a hit.

Some journalists were still unimpressed. They tried to seek the opinion of expert musicians. This was a wasted effort. Most artists will not try to underplay the success of another artist. Only Javed Akthar dared to speak his mind. (Rediff; 6 December 2011;

Javed Akhtar: Kolaveri Di is an insult to sensibility

Tamil actor Dhanush's song Kolevari Di might have taken the web world by storm. But that didn't impress lyricist Javed Akhtar.

“KOLAVARI-D: Every one is praising the robes but the emperer is naked. Tune ordinary, singing substandard. Words an insult to sensibility,” he tweeted.

He responded to a follower's answer: “What kind of logic is this even if all my songs are trash, meaningless, unbearable how does that make this Kolaveri D good.”

The noted lyricist has received a lot of flak for his remarks. “its a barrage of comments about my comment on KOLA…some are calling me jealous, even abusing me, others praising me for belling the cat,” he tweeted about the various responses to his tweet.

Is the average Internet citizen a crazed moron. Or, are some people just too loud?

If you look at who owners of the music rights for the film are, you will find that it is Sony Music from America. Now, Sony Music is big, as in Big Music. They are more familiar with modern PR than Indian music companies. India is pristine ground, up for unbridled exploitation. With their marketing muscle, they could have scored a million page views on the first day if they wanted to.

For one, there are lots of “Social Media Experts” out there who can guide companies and even governments create sophisticated online campaigns. They can manipulate online herds into promoting a product or a meme (online craze). They usually have people working individually and as part of other organizations with huge followings. “Celebrities” are sometimes roped in to boost numbers. They can create YouTube hits much bigger than this.

If you want something quick and dirty, then there is the “Online Mojo Mafia,” the underground operators who own millions of accounts in Facebook, Google, Gmail, YouTube, Twitter and other popular websites. (You may have seen their ads in newspapers and on wallposters. “Earn 4000 to 10,000 per month from home. Housewives, retired persons, Internet parlour owners invited.…”) They control huge botnets that span continents with millions of zombie computers strung together by unsecured Internet proxies and compromised software. They offer their botnets for rent. These botnets can create YouTube hits at the click of a button. Kolaveri is nothing compared to what they have already accomplished. (Do you know that the Russia Today YouTube channel gets more views than BBC and CNN combined?)

Note To Newspaper Publishers and Editors

It may be a dog-eat-dog situation in the newspaper business but there is no excuse for voluntarily leaking revenue. Do not get financially raped by PR companies. Keep an eye open for PR efforts masquerading as news stories. Tell them to advertise in your newspaper instead.

* - There is name for this affliction. It is called FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out. Next month, a wiser and sheepish Digit published an editorial that pretty much disowned their initial appreciation of the Kolaveri song.